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SB    Ml    53D 



Xincoln's  Xast  IHours 

Charles  H.  %eale,  flD.  2). 


Compliments  of 

The  Estate  of  Charles  A.  Leale 

New  York 





Military  Order  of  the   Loyal   Legion 
of  the  United  States 

at  the  regular  meeting,  February,    1909,  City  of  New  York 




President  Abraham  Lincoln 

7  \  4 

^Lincoln's  Xast  Ibours 

Gbarles  H*  Xeale,  /ID.  B. 

COPYRIGHT,     1909,     BY    CHARLES    A.    LEALE,    M.    D. 

Commander  and  Companions  of  the  Military  Order  of  the  Loyal  Legion 
of  the   United  States: 

At  the  historic  pageant  in  Washington,  when  the  remains  of  Presi 
dent  Lincoln  were  being  taken  from  the  White  House  to  the  Capitol, 
a  carriage  immediately  preceding  the  catafalque  was  assigned  to  me. 
Outside  were  the  crowds,  the  martial  music,  but  inside  the  carriage 
I  was  plunged  in  deep  self-communion,  until  aroused  by  a  gentle  tap- 
at  the  window  of  my  carriage  door.  An  officer  of  high  rank  put  his 
head  inside  and  exclaimed :  "Dr.  Leale,  I  would  rather  have  done  what 
you  did  to  prolong  the  life  of  the  President  than  to  have  accomplished 
my  duties  during  the  entire  war."  I  shrank  back  at  what  he  said, 
and  for  the  first  time  realized  the  importance  of  it  all.  As  soon  as 
I  returned  to  my  private  office  in  the  hospital,  I  drew  down  the  win 
dow-shade,  locked  the  door,  threw  myself  prostrate  on  the  bare  wood 
floor  and  asked  for  advice.  The  answer  came  as  distinctly  as  if 
spoken  by  a  human  being  present :  "Forget  it  all."  I  visited  our  Surgeon 
General,  Joseph  K.  Barnes,  and  asked  his  advice;  he  also  said:  "Cast 
it  from  your  memory." 

On  April  17,  1865,  a  New  York  newspaper  reporter  called  at  my 
army  tent.  I  invited  him  in,  and  expressed  my  desire  to  forget  all  the 
recent  sad  events,  and  to  occupy  my  mind  with  the  exacting  present 
and  plans  for  the  future. 

Recently,  several  of  our  Companions  expressed  the  conviction,  that 
history  now  demands,  and  that  it  is  my  duty  to  give  the  detailed  facts 
of  President  Lincoln's  death  as  I  know  them,  and  in  compliance  with 
their  request,  I  this  evening  for  the  first  time  will  read  a  paper  on  the 

^Lincoln's  Xast  Ibours 

One  of  the  most  cruel  wars  in  the  history  of  the  world  had  nearly 

The  people- of  the  United  States  were  rejoicing  at  the  prospect  of 
peace,  and  tetiltntag  happiness.  President  Lincoln,  after  the  surrender 
toC  ,Gpnieral  Robert1 'E.  Lee,  visited  Richmond,  Virginia,  exposing  him 
self  ittf  gi'^at  Singer./  and  on  his  return  delivered  an  address  from  the 
balcony  of  the  White  House. 

I  was  then  a  Commissioned  Officer  in  the  Medical  Department 
of  the  United  States  Army,  having  been  appointed  from  my  native 
State,  New  York,  and  was  on  duty  as  Surgeon  in  charge  of  the  Wounded 
Commissioned  Officers'  Ward  at  the  United  States  Army  General  Hos 
pital,  Armory  Square,  Washington,  District  of  Columbia,  where  my 
professional  duties  were  of  the  greatest  importance  and  required  con 
stant  and  arduous  attention.  For  a  brief  relief  and  a  few  moments 
in  the  fresh  air  I  started  one  evening  for  a  short  walk  on  Pennsylvania 
Avenue.  There  were  crowds  walking  toward  the  President's  residence. 
These  I  followed  and  arrived  just  at  the  commencement  of  President 
Lincoln's  last  public  address  to  his  people.  From  where  I  stood  I 
could  distinctly  hear  every  word  he  uttered  and  I  was  profoundly  im 
pressed  with  his  divine  appearance  as  he  stood  in  the  rays  of  light, 
which  penetrated  the  windows  of  the  White  House. 

The  influence  thus  produced  gave  me  an  intense  desire  again  to 
behold  his  face  and  study  the  characteristics  of  the  "Savior  of  his 
Country."  Therefore  on  the  evening  of  April  14,  1865,  after  the  com 
pletion  of  my  daily  hospital  duties,  I  told  my  Ward  Master  that  I 
would  be  absent  for  a  short  time.  As  a  very  large  number  from  the 
Armv  stationed  near  Washington  frequently  visited  the  city,  a  general 
order  was  in  force  that  none  should  be  there  without  a  special  pass 
and  all  wearing  uniform  and  out  at  night  were  subject  to  frequent 
challenge.  To  avoid  this  inconvenience  officers  stationed  in  Washing 
ton  generally  removed  all  signs  of  their  calling  when  off  duty.  I 
changed  to  civilian's  dress  and  hurried  to  Ford's  Theatre,  where  I 
had  been  told  President  Lincoln,  General  Grant,  and  Members  of  the 
Cabinet  were  to  be  present  to  see  the  play,  "Our  American  Cousin."  I 
arrived  late  at  the  theatre,  8.15  p.  m.,  and  requested  a  seat  in  the 


orchestra,  whence  I  could  view  the  occupants  of  the  President's  box, 
which  on  looking  into  the  theatre,  I  saw  had  been  beautifully  decorated 
with  American  flags  in  honor  of  the  occasion.  As  the  building  was 
crowded  the  last  place  vacant  was  in  the  dress  circle.  I  was  greatly 
disappointed,  but  accepted  this  seat,  which  was  near  the  front  on  the 
same  side  and  about  40  feet  from  the  President's  box,  and  soon  be 
came  interested  in  the  pleasing  play. 

Suddenly  there  was  a  cheering  welcome,  the  acting  ceased  tem 
porarily  out  of  respect  to  the  entering  Presidential  party.  Many  in 
the  audience  rose  to  their  feet  in  enthusiasm  and  vociferously  cheered, 
while  looking  around.  Turning,  I  saw  in  the  aisle  a  few  feet  behind 
me,  President  Lincoln,  Mrs.  Lincoln,  Major  Rathbone  and  Miss  Har 
ris.  Mrs.  Lincoln  smiled  very  happily  in  acknowledgment  of  the  loyal 
greeting,  gracefully  curtsied  several  times  and  seemed  to  be  overflowing 
with  good  cheer  and  thankfulness.  I  had  the  best  opportunity  to  dis 
tinctly  see  the  full  face  of  the  President,  as  the  light  shone  directly 
upon  him.  After  he  had  walked  a  few  feet  he  stopped  for  a  mo 
ment,  looked  upon  the  people  he  loved  and  acknowledged  their 
salutations  with  a  solemn  bow.  His  face  was  perfectly  stoical,  his 
deep  set  eyes  gave  him  a  pathetically  sad  appearance.  The  audience 
seemed  to  be  enthusiastically  cheerful,  but  he  alone  looked  peculiarly 
sorrowful,  as  he  slowly  walked  with  bowed  head  and  drooping  shoul 
ders  toward  the  box.  I  was  looking  at  him  as  he  took  his  last  walk. 
The  memory  of  that  scene  has  never  been  effaced.  The  party  was  pre 
ceded  by  a  special  usher,  who  opened  the  door  of  the  box,  stood  to 
one  side,  and  after  all  had  entered  closed  the  door  and  took  a  seat 
outside,  where  he  could  guard  the  entrance  to  the  box.  The  play 
was  resumed  and  mv  attention  was  concentrated  on  the  stage  until  I 
heard  a  disturbance  at  the  door  of  the  President's  box.  With  many 
others  I  looked  in  that  direction,  and  saw  a  man  endeavoring  to  per 
suade  the  reluctant  usher  to  admit  him.  At  last  he  succeeded  in  gain 
ing  an  entrance,  after  which  the  door  was  closed  and  the  usher  re 
sumed  his  place. 

For  a  few  moments  all  was  quiet,  and  the  play  again  held  my  at 
tention  until,  suddenly,  the  report  of  a  pistol  was  heard,  and  a  short 
time  after  I  saw  a  man  in  mid-air  leaping  from  the  President's  box 
to  the  stage,  brandishing  in  his  hand  a  drawn  dagger.  His  spur  caught 
in  the  American  flag  festooned  in  front  of  the  box,  causing  him  to 
stumble  when  he  struck  the  stage,  and  he  fell  on  his  hands  and  knees. 
He  quickly  regained  the  erect  posture  and  hopped  across  the  stage, 
flourishing  his  dagger,  clearing  the  stage  before  him  and  dragging  the 
foot  of  the  leg,  which  was  subsequently  found  to  be  broken,  he  dis- 


appeared  behind  the  scene  on  the  opposite  side  of  the  stage.  Then 
followed  cries  that  the  President  had  been  murdered,  interspersed  with 
cries  of  "Kill  the  murderer!"  "Shoot  him!"  etc.,  from  different  parts 
of  the  building.  The  lights  had  been  turned  down,  a  general  gloom 
was  over  all,  and  the  panic-stricken  audience  were  rushing  toward  the 
doors  for  exit  and  safety. 

I  instantly  arose  and  in  response  to  cries  for  help  and  for  a  sur 
geon,  I  crossed  the  aisle  and  vaulted  over  the  seats  in  a  direct  line  to 
the  President's  box,  forcing  my  way  through  the  excited  crowd.  The 
door  of  the  box  had  been  securely  fastened  on  the  inside  to  prevent 
anyone  following  the  assassin  before  he  had  accomplished  his  cruel 
object  and  made  his  escape.  The  obstruction  was  with  difficulty  re 
moved  and  I  was  the  first  to  be  admitted  to  the  box. 

The  usher  having  been  told  that  I  was  an  army  surgeon,  had  lifted 
up  his  arm  and  had  permitted  me  alone  to  enter. 

I  passed  in,  not  in  the  slightest  degree  knowing  what  I  had  to  en 
counter.  At  this  moment,  while  in  self-communion,  the  military  com 
mand:  "Halt!"  came  to  me,  and  in  obedience  to  it  I  stood  still  in  the 
box,  having  a  full  view  of  the  four  other  occupants.  Then  came  the 
advice :  "Be  calm !"  and  with  the  calmest  deliberation  and  iorce  of 
will  I  brought  all  my  senses  to  their  greatest  activity  and  walked  for 
ward  to  my  duty. 

Major  Rathbone  had  bravely  fought  the  assassin;  his  arm  had 
been  severely  wounded  and  was  bleeding.  He  came  to  me  holding  his 
wounded  arm  in  the  hand  of  the  other,  beseeching  me  to  attend  to  his 
wound.  I  placed  my  hand  under  his  chin,  looking  into  his  eyes  an 
almost  instantaneous  glance  revealed  the  fact  that  he  was  in  no  im 
mediate  danger,  and  in  response  to  appeals  from  Mrs.  Lincoln  and 
Miss  Harris,  who  were  standing  by  the  high-backed  armchair  in  which 
President  Lincoln  sat,  I  went  immediately  to  their  assistance,  saying 
I  was,  a  United  States  army  surgeon.  I  grasped  Mrs,  Lincoln's  out 
stretched  hand  in  mine,  while  she  cried  piteously  to  me,  "Oh,  Doctor! 
Is  he  dead?  Can  he  recover?  Will  you  take  charge  of  him?  Do 
what  you  can  for  him.  Oh,  my  dear  husband !"  etc.,  etc.  I  sooth 
ingly  answered  that  we  would  do  all  that  possibly  could  be  done. 
While  approaching  the  President,  I  asked  a  gentleman,  who  was  at  the 
door  of  the  box,  to  procure  some  brandy  and  another  to  get  some 

As  I  looked  at  the  President,  he  appeared  to  be  dead.  His  eyes 
were  closed  and  his  head  had  fallen  forward.  He  was  being  held 
upright  in  his  chair  by  Mrs.  Lincoln,  who  was  weeping  bitterly.  From 

his  crouched  down  sitting  posture  it  was  evident  that  Mrs.  Lincoln 
had  instantly  sprung  to  his  aid  after  he  had  been  wounded  and  had 
kept  him  from  tumbling  to  the  floor.  By  Mrs.  Lincoln's  courage, 
strength  and  energy  the  President  was  maintained  in  this  upright  po 
sition  during  all  the  time  that  elapsed  while  Major  Rathbone  had 
bravely  fought  the  assassin  and  removed  the  obstruction  from  the 
door  of  the  box. 

I  placed  my  finger  on  the  President's  right  radial  pulse  but  could 
perceive  no  movement  of  the  artery.  For  the  purpose  of  reviving  him, 
if  possible,  we  removed  him  from  his  chair  to  a  recumbent  position 
on  the  floor  of  the  box,  and  as  I  held  his  head  and  shoulders  while 
doing  this,  my  hand  came  in  contact  with  a  clot  of  blood  near  his 
left  shoulder.  Remembering  the  flashing  dagger  in  the  hand  of  the 
assassin,  and  the  severely  bleeding  wound  of  Major  Rathbone,  I  sup 
posed  the  President  had  been  stabbed,  and  while  kneeling  on  the  floor 
over  his  head,  with  my  eyes  continuously  watching  the  President's 
face,  I  asked  a  gentleman  to  cut  the  coat  and  shirt  open  from  the  neck 
to  the  elbow  to  enable  me,  if  possible,  to  check  the  hemorrhage  that 
I  thought  might  take  place  from  the  subclavian  artery  or  some  other 
blood  vessel.  This  was  done  with  a  dirk  knife,  but  no  wound  was 
found  there.  I  lifted  his  eyelids  and  saw  evidence  of  a  brain  injury. 
I  quickly  passed  the  separated  fingers  of  both  hands  through  his 
blood  matted  hair  to  examine  his  head,  and  I  discovered  his  mortal 
wound.  The  President  had  been  shot  in  the  back  part  of  the  head, 
behind  the  left  ear.  I  easily  removed  the  obstructing  clot  of  blood 
from  the  wound,  and  this  relieved  the  pressure  on  the  brain. 

The  assassin  of  President  Lincoln  had  evidently  carefully  planned 
to  shoot  to  produce  instant  death,  as  the  wound  he  made  was  situated 
within  two  inches  of  the  physiological  point  of  selection,  when  instant 
death  is  desired.  A  Derringer  pistol  had  been  used,  which  had  sent 
a  large  round  ball  on  its  awful  mission  through  one  of  the  thickest, 
hardest  parts  of  the  skull  and  into  the  brain.  The  history  of  surgery 
fails  to  record  a  recovery  from  such  a  fearful  wound  and  I  have  never 
seen  or  heard  of  any  other  person  with  such  a  wound,  and  injury  to 
the  sinus  of  the  brain  and  to  the  brain  itself,  who  lived  even  for  an 

As  the  President  did  not  then  revive,  I  thought  of  the  other  mode 
of  death,  apnoea,  and  assumed  my  preferred  position  to  revive  by  ar 
tificial  respiration.  I  knelt  on  the  floor  over  the  President,  with  a 
knee  on  each  side  of  his  pelvis  and  facing  him.  I  leaned  forward, 
opened  his  mouth  and  introduced  two  extended  fingers  of  my  right 
hand  as  far  back  as  possible,  and  by  pressing  the  base  of  his  paralyzed 

tongue  downward  and  outward,  opened  his  larynx  and  made  a  free 
passage  for  air  to  enter  the  lungs.  I  placed  an  assistant  at  each  of 
his  arms  to  manipulate  them  in  order  to  expand  his  thorax,  then  slowly 
to  press  the  arms  down  by  the  side  of  the  body,  while  I  pressed  the 
diaphragm  upward:  methods  which  caused  air  to  be  drawn  in  and 
forced  out  of  his  lungs. 

During  the  intermissions  I  also  with  the  strong  thumb  and  fingers 
of  my  right  hand  by  intermittent  sliding  pressure  under  and  beneath 
the  ribs,  stimulated  the  apex  of  the  heart,  and  resorted  to  several 
other  physiological  methods.  We  repeated  these  motions  a  number  of 
times  before  signs  of  recovery  fromi  the  profound  shock  were  attained; 
then  a  feeble  action  of  the  heart  and  irregular  breathing  followed. 

The  effects  of  the  shock  were  still  manifest  by  such  great  pros 
tration,  that  I  was  fearful  of  any  extra  agitation  of  the  President's 
body,  and  became  convinced  that  something  more  must  be  done  to 
retain  life.  I  leaned  forcibly  forward  directly  over  his  body,  thorax  to 
thorax,  face  to  face,  and  several  times  drew  in  a  long  breath,  then  forcibly 
breathed  directly  into  his  mouth  and  nostrils,  which  expanded  his 
lungs  and  improved  his  respirations.  After  waiting  a  moment  I  placed 
my  ear  over  his  thorax  and  found  the  action  of  the  heart  improving. 
I  arose  to  the  erect  kneeling  posture,  then  watched  for  a  short  time, 
and  saw  that  the  President  could  continue  independent  breathing  and 
that  instant  death  would  not  occur. 

I  then  pronounced  my  diagnosis  and  prognosis:  "His  wound  is 
mortal ;  it  is  impossible  for  him  to  recover."  This  message  was 
telegraphed  all  over  the  country. 

When  the  brandy  and  water  arrived,  I  very  slowly  poured  a  small 
quantity  into  the  President's  mouth,  this  was  swallowed  and  retained. 

Many  looked  on  during  these  earnest  efforts  to  revive  the  Presi 
dent,  but  not  once  did  any  one  suggest  a  word  or  in  any  way  interfere 
with  my  actions.  Mrs.  Lincoln  had  thrown  the  burden  on  me  and 
sat  nearby  looking  on. 

In  the  dimly  lighted  box  of  the  theatre,  so  beautifully  decorated 
with  American  flags,  a  scene  of  historic  importance  was  being  enacted. 
On  the  carpeted  floor  lay  prostrate  the  President  of  the  United  States. 
His  long,  outstretched,  athletic  body  of  six  feet  four  inches  appeared 
unusually  heroic.  His  bleeding  head  rested  on  my  white  linen  hand 
kerchief.  His  clothing  was  arranged  as  nicely  as  possible.  He  was 
irregularly  breathing,  his  heart  was  feebly  beating,  his  face  was  pale 
and  in  solemn  repose,  his  eyelids  were  closed,  his  countenance  made 

him  appear  to  be  in  prayerful  communion  with  the  Universal  God  he 
always  loved.  I  looked  down  upon  him  and  waited  for  the  next  in 
spiration,  which  soon  came :  ''Remove  to  safety."  From  the  time  Mrs. 
Lincoln  had  placed  the  President  in  my  charge,  I  had  not  permitted 
my  attention  to  be  diverted.  Again  I  was  asked  the  nature  of  his 
wound  and  replied  in  these  exact  words:  "His  wound  is  mortal;  it 
is  impossible  for  him  to  recover." 

While  I  was  kneeling  over  the  President  on  the  floor  Dr.  Charles 
S.  Taft  and  Dr.  Albert  F.  A.  King  had  come  and  offered  to  render  any 
assistance.  I  expressed  the  desire  to  have  the  President  taken,  as  soon 
as  he  had  gained  sufficient  strength,  to  the  nearest  house  on  the  op 
posite  side  of  the  street.  I  was  asked  by  several  if  he  could  not  be 
taken  to  the  White  House,  but  I  responded  that  if  that  were  attempted 
the  President  would  die  long  before  we  reached  there.  While  we  were 
waiting  for  Mr.  Lincoln  to  gain  strength  Laura  Keene,  who  had  been 
taking  part  in  the  play,  appealed  to  me  to  allow  her  to  hold  the  Presi 
dent's  head.  I  granted  this  request  and  she  sat  on  the  floor  of  the  box 
and  held  his  head  on  her  lap. 

We  decided  that  the  President  could  now  be  moved  from  the  pos 
sibility  of  danger  in  the  theatre  to  a  house  where  we  might  place  him 
on  a  bed  in  safety.  To  assist  in  this  duty  I  assigned  Dr.  Taft  to  carry 
his  right  shoulder,  Dr.  King  to  carry  his  left  shoulder  and  detailed  a 
sufficient  number  of  others,  whose  names  I  have  never  discovered,  to 
assist  in  carrying  the  body,  while  I  carried  his  head,  going  first.  We 
reached  the  door  of  the  box  and  saw  the  long  passage  leading  to  the 
exit  crowded  with  people.  I  called  out  twice:  "Guards,  clear  the  pass 
age!  Guards,  clear  the  passage!"  A  free  space  was  quickly  cleared 
by  an  officer  and  protected  by  a  line  of  soldiers  in  the  position  of 
present  arms  with  swords,  pistols  and  bayonets.  When  we  reached 
the  stairs,  I  turned  so  that  those  holding  the  President's  feet  would 
descend  first.  At  the  door  of  the  theatre,  I  was  again  asked  if  the 
President  could  be  taken  to  the  White  House.  I  answered:  "No,  the 
President  would  die  on  the  way." 

The  crowd  in  the  street  completely  obstructed  the  doorway  and  a 
captain,  whose  services  proved  invaluable  all  through  the  night,  came 
to  me,  saying:  "Surgeon,  give  me  your  commands  and  I  will  see  that 
they  are  obeyed."  I  asked  him  to  clear  a  passage  to  the  nearest  house 
opposite.  He  had  on  side  arms  and  drew  his  sword.  With  the  sword 
and  word  of  command  he  cleared  the  way.  We  slowly  crossed  the 
street.  It  was  necessary  to  stop  several  times  to  give  me  the  oppor 
tunity  to  remove  the  clot  of  blood  from  the  opening  to  the  wound.  A 
barrier  of  men  had  been  formed  to  keep  back  the  crowds  on  each  side 

of  an  open  space  leading  to  the  house.  Those  who  went  ahead  reported 
that  the  house  directly  opposite  the  theatre  was  closed.  I  saw  a  man 
standing  at  the  door  of  Mr.  Petersen's  house,  diagonally  opposite,  hold 
ing  a  lighted  candle  in  his  hand  and  beckoning  us  to  enter.  This  we 
did,  not  having  been  interrupted  in  the  slightest  by  the  throngs  in  the 
street,  but  a  number  of  the  excited  populace  followed  us  into  the  house. 

The  great  difficulty  of  retaining  life  during  this  brief  time  occu 
pied  in  moving  the  President  from  the  theatre  to  Mr.  Petersen's 
house,  conclusively  proved  that  the  President  would  have  died  in  the 
street  if  I  had  granted  the  request  to  take  him  such  a  long  distance  as 
to  the  White  House.  I  asked  for  the  best  room  and  we  soon  had  the 
President  placed  in  bed.  He  was  lifted  to  the  longitudinal  center  of 
the  bed  and  placed  on  his  back.  While  holding  his  face  upward  and 
keeping  his  head  from  rolling  to  either  side,  I  looked  at  his  elevated 
knees  caused  by  his  great  height.  This  uncomfortable  position  grieved 
me  and  I  ordered  the  foot  of  the  bed  to  be  removed.  Dr.  Taft  and 
Dr.  King  reported  that  it  was  a  fixture.  Then  I  requested  that  it  be 
broken  off ;  as  I  found  this  could  not  satisfactorily  be  done,  I  had  the 
President  placed  diagonally  on  the  bed  and  called  for  extra  pillows, 
and  with  them  formed  a  gentle  inclined  plane  on  which  to  rest  his  head 
and  shoulders.  His  position  was  then  one  of  repose. 

The  room  soon  filled  with  anxious  people.  I  called  the  officer  and 
asked  him  to  open  a  window  and  order  all  except  the  medical  gentle 
men  and  friends  to  leave  the  room.  After  we  had  given  the  President 
a  short  rest  I  decided  to  make  a  thorough  physical  examination,  as  I 
wished  to  see  if  he  had  been  wounded  in  any  other  part  of  the  body. 
I  requested  all  except  the  surgeons  to  leave  the  room.  The  Captain 
reported  that  my  order  had  been  carried  out  with  the  exception  of 
Mrs.  Lincoln,  to  whom  he  said  he  did  not  like  to  speak.  I  addressed 
Mrs.  Lincoln,  explaining  my  desire,  and  she  immediately  left  the  room. 
I  examined  the  President's  entire  body  from  his  head  to  his  feet  and 
found  no  other  injury.  His  lower  extremities  were  very  cold  and  I 
sent  the  Hospital  Steward,  who  had  been  of  great  assistance  to  us  in 
removing  the  President  from  the  theatre,  to  procure  bottles  of  hot 
water  and  hot  blankets,  which  were  applied.  I  also  sent  for  a  large 
sinapism  and  in  a  short  time  one  very  nicely  made  was  brought.  This 
I  applied  over  the  solar-plexus  and  to  the  anterior  surface  of  his  body. 
We  arranged  the  bed  clothes  nicely  and  I  assigned  Dr.  Taft  and  Dr. 
King  to  keep  his  head  upon  the  pillows  in  the  most  comfortable  posi 
tion,  relieving  each  other  in  this  duty,  after  which  I  sent  an  officer  to 
notify  Mrs.  Lincoln  that  she  might  return  to  her  husband;  she  came  in 
and  sat  on  a  chair  placed  for  her  at  the  head  of  the  bed. 


As  the  symptoms  indicated  renewed  brain  compression,  I  again 
cleared  the  opening  of  clotted  blood  and  pushed  forward  the  button  of 
bone,  which  acted  as  a  valve,  permitted  an  oozing  of  blood  and  re 
lieved  pressure  on  the  brain.  I  again  saw  good  results  from  this  action. 

After  doing  all  that  was  professionally  necessary,  I  stood  aside  for 
a  general  view  and  to  think  what  to  do  next.  While  thus  watching  sev 
eral  army  officers  anxiously  asked  if  they  could  in  any  way  assist.  I 
told  them  my  greatest  desire  then  was  to  send  messengers  to  the  White 
House  for  the  President's  son,  Captain  Robert  T.  Lincoln,  also  'for  the 
Surgeon  General,  Joseph  K.  Barnes,  Surgeon  D.  Willard  Bliss,  in 
charge  of  Armory  Square  General  Hospital,  the  President's  family 
physician,  Dr.  Robert  K.  Stone,  and  to  each  member  of  the  President's 
Cabinet.  All  these  desires  of  mins  were  fulfilled. 

Having  been  taught  in  early  youth  to  pay  great  respect  to  all  re 
ligious  denominations  in  regard  to  their  rules  concerning  the  sick  or 
dying,  it  became  my  duty  as  surgeon  in  charge  of  the  dying  President 
to  summon  a  clergyman  to  his  bedside.  Therefore  after  inquiring  and 
being  informed  that  the  Rev.  Dr.  Gurley  was  Mrs.  Lincoln's  pastor,  I 
immediately  sent  for  him. 

Then  I  sent  the  Hospital  Steward  for  a  Nelaton  probe.  No  drug 
or  medicine  in  any  form  was  administered  to  the  President,  but  the 
artificial  heat  and  mustard  plaster  that  I  had  applied  warmed  his  cold 
body  and  stimulated  his  nerves.  Only  a  few  were  at  any  time  admitted 
to  the  room  by  the  officer,  whom  I  had  stationed  at  the  door,  and  at 
all  times  I  had  maintained  perfect  discipline  and  order. 

While  we  were  watching  and  letting  Nature  do  her  part,  Dr.  Taft 
came  to  me  with  brandy  and  water  and  asked  permission  to  give  some 
to  the  President.  I  objected,  stating  as  my  reason  that  it  would  produce 
strangulation.  Dr.  Taft  left  the  room,  and  again  came  to  me  stating 
that  it  was  the  opinion  of  others  also  that  it  might  do  good.  I  replied : 
"I  will  grant  the  request,  if  you  will  please  at  first  try  by  pouring  only 
a  very  small  quantity  into  the  President's  mouth."  This  Dr.  Taft  very 
carefully  did,  the  liquid  ran  into  the  President's  larynx  producing  laryn- 
geal  obstruction  and  unpleasant  symptoms,  which  took  me  about  half 
a  minute  to  overcome,  but  no  lasting  harm  was  done.  My  physiological 
and  practical  experiences  had  led  to  correct  conclusions. 

On  the  arrival  of  Dr.  Robert  K.  Stone,  who  had  been  the  Presi 
dent's  family  physician  during  his  residence  in  Washington,  I  was  pre 
sented  to  him  as  the  one  who  had  been  in  charge  since  the  President 
was  shot.  I  described  the  wound  and  told  him  all  that  had  been  done. 
He  said  he  approved  of  my  treatment. 

Surgeon  General  Joseph  K.  Barnes'  long  delay  in  arriving  was  due 
to  his  going  first  to  the  White  House,  where  he  expected  to  find  the 
assassinated  President,  then  to  the  residence  of  Secretary  Seward  and 
his  son,  both  of  whom  he  found  requiring  immediate  attention,  as  they 
had  been  severely  wounded  by  the  attempts  of  another  assassin  to  kill 

On  the  arrival  of  the  Surgeon  General  and  Assistant  Surgeon  Gen 
eral,  Charles  H.  Crane,  I  reported  what  we  had  done  and  officially  de 
tailed  to  the  Surgeon  General  my  diagnosis,  stating  that  whenever  the 
clot  was  allowed  to  form  over  the  opening  to  the  wound  the  President's 
breathing  became  greatly  embarrassed.  The  Surgeon  General  approved 
the  treatment  and  my  original  plan  of  treatment  was  continued  in 
every  respect  until  the  President's  death. 

The  Hospital  Steward  arrived  with  the  Nelaton  probe  and  an  ex 
amination  was  made  by  the  Surgeon  General  and  myself,  who  introduced 
the  probe  to  a  distance  of  about  two  and  a  half  inches,  where  it  came 
in  contact  with  a  foreign  substance,  which  lay  across  the  track  of  the 
ball ;  this  was  easily  passed  and  the  probe  was  introduced  several  inches 
further  where  it  again  touched  a  hard  substance  at  first  supposed  to 
be  the  ball,  but  as  the  white  porcelain  bulb  of  the  probe  on  its  with 
drawal  did  not  indicate  the  mark  of  lead  it  was  generally  thought  to 
be  another  piece  of  loose  bone.  The  probe  was  introduced  the  second 
time  and  the  ball  was  supposed  to  be  distinctly  felt.  After  this  second 
exploration  nothing  further  was  done  with  the  wound  except  to  keep 
the  opening  free  from  coagula,  which,  if  allowed  to  form  and  remain 
for  a  short  time,  produced  signs  of  increased  compression,  the  breathing 
becoming  profoundly  stertorous  and  intermittent,  the  pulse  more  feeble 
and  irregular.  After  I  had  resigned  my  charge  all  that  was  profes 
sionally  done  for  the  President  was  to  repeat  occasionally  my  original 
expedient  of  relieving  the  brain  pressure  by  freeing  the  opening  to  the 
wound  and  to  count  the  pulse  and  respirations.  The  President's  posi 
tion  on  the  bed  remained  exactly  as  I  had  first  placed  him  with  the 
assistance  of  Dr.  Taft  and  Dr.  King. 

Captain  Robert  T.  Lincoln  came  and  remained  with  his  father  and 
mother,  bravely  sustaining  himself  during  the  course  of  the  night. 

On  that  awful  memorable  night  the  great  War  Secretary,  the  Hon 
orable  Edwin  M.  Stanton,  one  of  the  most  imposing  figures  of  the 
nineteenth  century,  promptly  arrived  and  recognized  at  that  critical 
period  of  our  country's  history  the  necessity  of  a  head  to  our  Govern 
ment  and  as  the  President  was  passing  away  established  a  branch  of 
his  War  Department  in  an  adjoining  room.  There  he  sat,  surrounded 


by  his  counsellors  and  messengers,  pen  in  hand,  writing  to  General  Dix 
and  others.  He  was  soon  in  communication  with  many  in  authority 
and  with  the  Government  and  army  officials.  By  Secretary  Stanton's 
wonderful  ability  and  power  in  action,  he  undoubtedly  controlled  mil 
lions  of  excited  people.  He  was  then  the  Master,  and  in  reality  Acting 
President  of  the  United  States. 

During  the  night  Mrs.  Lincoln  came  frequently  from  the  adjoining 
room  accompanied  by  a  lady  friend.  At  one  time  Mrs.  Lincoln  ex 
claimed,  sobbing  bitterly:  "Oh!  that  my  little  Taddy  might  see  his 
father  before  he  died!"  This  was  decided  not  advisable.  As  Mrs.  Lin 
coln  sat  on  a  chair  by  the  side  of  the  bed  with  her  face  to  her  hus 
band's  his  breathing  became  very  stertorous  and  the  loud,  unnatural 
noise  frightened  her  in  her  exhausted,  agonized  condition.  She  sprang 
up  suddenly  with  a  piercing  cry  and  fell  fainting  to  the  floor.  Sec 
retary  Stanton  hearing  her  cry  came  in  from  the  adjoining  room  and 
with  raised  arms  called  out  loudly :  "Take  that  woman  out  and  do  not 
let  her  in  again."  Mrs.  Lincoln  was  helped  up  kindly  and  assisted  in 
a  fainting  condition  from  the  room.  Secretary  Stanton's  order  was 
obeyed  and  Mrs.  Lincoln  did  not  see  her  husband  again  before  he  died. 

As  Captain  Lincoln  was  consoling  his  mother  in  another  room, 
and  as  I  had  promised  Mrs.  Lincoln  to  do  all  I  possibly  could  for  her 
husband,  I  took  the  place  of  kindred  and  continuously  held  the  Presi 
dent's  right  hand  firmly,  with  one  exception  of  less  than  a  minute, 
when  my  sympathies  compelled  me  to  seek  the  disconsolate  wife.  I 
found  her  reclining  in  a  nearby  room,  being  comforted  by  her  son. 
Without  stopping  in  my  walk,  I  passed  the  room  where  Secretary  Stan- 
ton  sat  at  his  official  table  and  returning  took  the  hand  of  the  dying 
President  in  mine.  The  hand  that  had  signed  the  Emancipation  Proc 
lamation  liberating  4,000,000  slaves. 

As  morning  dawned  it  became  quite  evident  that  the  President  was 
sinking,  and  at  several  times  his  pulse  could  not  be  counted.  Two  or 
three  feeble  pulsations  being  noticed,  followed  by  an  intermission  when 
not  the  slightest  movements  of  the  artery  could  be  felt.  The  inspira 
tions  became  very  prolonged  and  labored,  accompanied  by  a  guttural 
sound.  The  respirations  ceased  for  some  time  and  several  anxiously 
looked  at  their  watches  until  the  profound  silence  was  disturbed  by  a 
prolonged  inspiration,  which  was  followed  by  a  sonorous  expiration. 

During  these  moments  the  Surgeon  General  occupied  a  chair  by  the 
head  of  the  President's  bed  and  occasionally  held  his  finger  over  the 
carotid  artery  to  note  its  pulsations.  Dr.  Stone  sat  on  the  edge  of  the 
foot  of  the  bed,  and  I  stood  holding  the  President's  right  hand  with  my 
extended  forefinger  on  his  pulse,  being  the  only  one  between  the  bed 


and  the  wall,  the  bed  having  been  drawn  out  diagonally  for  that  pur 
pose.  While  we  were  anxiously  watching  in  profound  solemn  silence, 
the  Rev.  Dr.  Gurley  said:  "Let  us  pray,"  and  offered  a  most  impres 
sive  prayer.  After  which  we  witnessed  the  last  struggle  between  life 
and  death. 

At  this  time  my  knowledge  of  physiology,  pathology  and  psychology 
told  me  that  the  President  was  totally  blind  as  a  result  of  blood  press 
ure  on  the  brain,  as  indicated  by  the  paralysis,  dilated  pupils,  pro 
truding  and  bloodshot  eyes,  but  all  the  time  I  acted  on  the  belief  that 
if  his  sense  of  hearing  or  feeling  remained,  he  could  possibly  hear  me 
when  I  sent  for  his  son,  the  voice  of  his  wife  when  she  spoke  to  him 
and  that  the  last  sound  he  heard,  may  have  been  his  pastor's  prayer, 
as  he  finally  committed  his  soul  to  God. 

Knowledge  that  frequently  just  before  departure  recognition  and 
reason  return  to  those  who  have  been  unconscious  caused  me  for  sev 
eral  hours  to  hold  his  right  hand  firmly  within  my  grasp  to  let  him  in 
his  blindness  know,  if  possible,  that  he  was  in  touch  with  humanity 
and  had  a  friend. 

The  protracted  struggle  ceased  at  twenty  minutes  past  seven  o'clock 
on  the  morning  of  April  15,  1865,  and  I  announced  that  the  President 
was  dead. 

Immediately  after  death  the  <few  remaining  in  the  room  knelt 
around  the  bed  while  the  Rev.  Dr.  Gurley  delivered  one  of  the  most 
impressive  prayers  ever  uttered,  that  our  Heavenly  Father  look  down 
in  pity  upon  the  bereaved  family  and  preserve  our  afflicted  and  sorrow- 
stricken  country. 

Then  I  gently  smoothed  the  President's  contracted  facial  muscles, 
took  two  coins  from  my  pocket,  placed  them  over  his  eyelids  and  drew 
a  white  sheet  over  the  martyr's  face.  I  had  been  the  means,  in  God's 
hand,  of  prolonging  the  life  of  President  Abraham  Lincoln  for  nine 

Every  necessary  act  of  love,  devotion,  skill  and  loyalty  had  been 
rendered  during  his  helpless  hours  to  the  President  of  the  United 
States,  the  Commander-in-Chief  of  the  Army  and  Navy,  to  the  be 
loved  of  millions  of  people  throughout  the  world. 

Many  reported,  anxious  in  any  way  to  be  of  service.  I  accepted 
their  offers  to  the  extent  of  abundantly  filling  every  want.  Of  all  the 
people  I  have  met  in  different  parts  of  the  world,  I  have  found  that  as 
a  class,  good  Americans  are  not  to  be  excelled  when  occasions  demand, 
in  strength,  endurance,  calmness,  good  judgment,  ardent  loyal  devotion 
and  self-sacrificing  love. 


By  prolonging  the  life  of  President  Lincoln,  his  son  Robert,  whom 
I  sent  for,  was  enabled  to  see  his  father  alive.  Physicians  and  surgeons, 
lawyer  and  clergyman,  whom  I  sent  for,  visited  the  President  and  were 
given  time  to  deliberate.  Members  of  the  Cabinet,  whom  I  sent  for 
with  soldiers  and  sailors  and  friends,  had  the  opportunity  to  surround 
him.  Millions  of  dangerous,  excited  and  disappointed  people  were 
morally  dissuaded  from  acts  of  discord.  The  nation  was  held  in  sup 
pressed,  sympathetic  suspense  and  control,  when  the  people  heard  that 
the  President  was  living,  though  severely  wounded  and  dying. 

Before  the  people  had  time  to  realize  the  situation  there  was  an 
other  President  of  the  United  States  and  the  grandeur  of  the  continuity 
of  the  Republic  was  confirmed. 

After  all  was  over,  and  as  I  stood  by  the  side  of  the  covered  mor 
tal  remains  I  thought:  "You  have  fulfilled  your  promise  to  the  wife, 
your  duty  now  is  to  the  many  living,  suffering,  wounded  officers  com 
mitted  to  your  care  in  your  ward  at  Armory  Square  General  Hospital, 
and  I  left  the  house  in  deep  meditation.  In  my  lonely  walk  I  was 
aroused  from  my  reveries  by  the  cold  drizzling  rain  dropping  on  my 
bare  head,  my  hat  I  had  left  in  my  seat  at  the  theatre.  My  clothing 
was  stained  with  blood,  I  had  not  once  been  seated  since  I  first  sprang 
to  the  President's  aid;  I  was  cold,  weary  and  sad.  The  dawn  of  peace 
was  again  clouded,  the  most  cruel  war  in  history  had  not  completely 
ended.  Our  long  sorrowing  country  vividly  came  before  me  as  I 
thought  how  essential  it  was  to  have  an  organization  composed  of  re 
turning  soldiers  to  guard  and  protect  the  officers  of  state  and  uphold 
the  Constitution.  This  great  need  was  simultaneously  recognized  by 
others,  for  on  that  day,  April  15,  1865,  there  assembled  at  Philadelphia 
a  few  army  officers  for  that  purpose  and  originated  the  Military  Order 
of  the  Loyal  Legion  of  the  United  States. 

Among  the  archives  of  our  organization,  the  Military  Order  of  the 
Loyal  Legion  of  the  United  States,  we  have  recorded: — 


President   of   the    United   States,  March   4,    1861,    to   April   15,    1865. 
Born  February  12,   1809,  Hardin    (La  Rue  County},  Kentucky. 
Assassinated  April  14,  1865;  died  April  15,  1865,  at  Washington,  D.C. 
Enrolled  by  Special  Resolution,  to  date  from  April  15,  1865. 

I  herewith  give  in  the  order  in  which  they  arrived,  the  names  of  the 
physicians  and  surgeons,  and  the  clergyman  whom  I  recognized  as  taking 
a  professional  part  in  the  physical,  mental  or  spiritual  welfare  of  the 
President  from  the  time  he  was  shot  until  his  death.  The  first  person  to 


enter  the  box  after  the  President  was  shot,  and  who  took  charge  of 
him  at  the  request  of  Mrs.  Lincoln,  was  myself,  Charles  A.  Leale, 
M.  D.,  Assistant  Surgeon,  United  States  Volunteers  and  the  surgeon 
in  charge  of  the  ward  containing  the  wounded  commissioned  officers 
at  the  United  States  Army  General  Hospital,  Armory  Square,  Wash 
ington,  D.  C.  The  next  who  reported  and  simultaneously  offered  their 
services  to  me,  which  were  accepted,  were  Charles  S.  Taft,  M.  D., 
Acting  Assistant  Surgeon,  United  States  Army,  and  Albert  F.  A.  King, 
M.  D.,  Acting  Assistant  Surgeon,  United  States  Army.  Then  appar 
ently  a  very  long  time  after  we  had  cared  for  the  President  in  Mr. 
Petersen's  house,  and  in  response  to  the  numerous  messengers  whom 
I  had  sent,  there  arrived  Robert  K.  Stone,  M.  D.,  Mrs.  Lincoln's  family 
physician;  Joseph  K.  Barnes,  M.  D.,  Surgeon  General,  United  States 
Army;  Charles  H.  Crane,  M.  D.,  Assistant  Surgeon  General,  United 
States  Army,  and  the  Rev.  Dr.  Gurley,  Mrs.  Lincoln's  pastor.  During 
the  night  several  other  physicians  unknown  to  me  called,  and  through 
courtesy  I  permitted  some  of  them  to  feel  the  President's  pulse,  but 
none  of  them  touched  the  wound. 

Later  in  the  forenoon  as  I  was  in  the  midst  of  important  surgical 
duties  at  our  hospital,  I  was  notified  by  my  lady  nurse  that  a  messenger 
had  called  inviting  me  to  be  present  at  the  necropsy.  Later  a  doctor 
called  for  the  same  purpose.  I  respectfully  asked  to  be  excused,  as 
I  did  not  dare  to  leave  the  large  number  of  severely  wounded  expecting 
my  usual  personal  care.  I  was  fearful  that  the  shock  of  hearing  of 
the  sudden  death  of  the  President  might  cause  trouble  in  their  de 
pressed  painful  conditions. 

One  of  my  patients  was  profoundly  depressed.  He  said  to  me: 
"Doctor,  all  we  have  fought  for  is  gone.  Our  country  is  destroyed, 
and  I  want  to  die."  This  officer  the  day  before  was  safely  recovering 
from  an  amputation.  I  called  my  lady  nurse,  "Please  closely  watch 
Lieutenant  -  — ;  cheer  him  as  much  as  possible,  and  give  him  two 
ounces  of  wine  every  two  hours,"  etc.,  etc.  This  brave  soldier  received 
the  greatest  kindness  and  skillful  care,  but  he  would  not  rally  from  the 
shock  and  died  in  a  short  time. 

Among  my  relics  I  have  a  photograph  taken  a  few  days  later  in 
full  staff  uniform  as  I  appeared  at  the  obsequies.  The  crape  has  never 
been  removed  from  my  sword.  I  have  my  cuffs  stained  with  the  mar 
tyr's  blood,  also  my  card  of  invitation  to  the  funeral  services,  held  on 
Wednesday,  April  19,  which  I  attended,  having  been  assigned  a  place 
at  the  head  of  the  coffin  at  the  White  House,  and  a  carriage  immediately 
preceding  the  catafalque  in  the  grand  funeral  procession  from  the 


Wlhite  House  to  the  Capitol;  where  during  the  public  ceremonies  I 
was  assigned  to  a  place  at  the  head  of  the  casket  as  it  rested  beneath 
the  rotunda. 

One  of  the  most  devoted  of  those  who  remained  in  the  room  with 
the  dying  President  was  Senator  Charles  Sumner,  of  Massachusetts. 
He  visited  me  subsequently  and  said:  "Dr.  Leale,  do  you  remember 
that  I  remained  all  the  time  until  President  Lincoln  died?"  Senator 
Sumner  was  profoundly  affected  by  this  great  calamity  to  both  North 
and  South. 

On  my  visit  to  Secretary  Seward  some  time  after  the  President's 
death,  he  was  still  suffering  from  his  fracture  and  from  the  brutal 
attacks  of  the  assassin,  who  made  such  a  desperate  attempt  to  kill  him 
on  that  fatal  night. 

When  I  again  met  Secretary  Stanton  we  sat  alone  in  his  private 
office.  He  was  doing  his  utmost  to  continue  what  he  deemed  best  for 
our  country.  The  long  continued  strain  and  great  burden  had  left  their 
deep  impress  upon  him.  At  the  close  of  my  call  we  shook  hands  fra 

After  the  war  had  closed  Governor  Fenton,  of  New  York  State, 
one  of  the  "War  Governors,"  came  to  me  and  said:  "Dr.  Leale,  I 
will  give  you  anything  possible  within  my  power."  I  responded :  "I 
sincerely  thank  you,  Governor;  but  I  desire  nothing,  as  I  wish  to  fol 
low  my  mission  in  life." 

The  city  of  Washington  was  wrapped  in  a  mantle  of  gloom.  The 
President  had  known  his  people  and  had  a  heart  full  of  love  for  his 
soldiers  and  sailors.  With  "malice  toward  none"  he  alone  seemed  to 
have  the  power  to  restore  fraternal  love.  He  alone  appeared  able  to 
quickly  heal  his  country's  wound. 

In  May  there  occurred  in  Washington  one  of  the  most  pathetic 
and  historic  events,  the  return  of  the  Northern  Army  for  the  final 
review  of  more  than  70,000  veterans.  A  grandstand  had  been  erected 
in  front  of  the  White  House  for  the  new  President,  his  Cabinet,  Offi 
cers  of  State,  Foreign  Ministers  and  others.  I  had  a  seat  on  this  grand 
stand,  from  which  on  May  24th  we  watched  one  of  the  most  imposing 
parades  recorded  in  history.  Among  the  many  heroes,  I  recall  the 
passing  of  stately  General  William  Tecumseh  Sherman  on  his  majestic 
horse,  which  had  been  garlanded  with  roses.  After  we  had  been  sit- 


ting  there  for  several  hours  a  foreign  official  tapped  me  on  the  shoulder 
and  said:  "What  will  become  of  these  thousands  of  soldiers  after  their 
discharge?"  I  answered:  "They  will  return  to  their  homes  all  over 
the  country  and  soon  be  at  work  doing  their  utmost  to  pay  off  the 
national  debt."  He  replied :  "Is  it  possible !  No  other  country  could 
expect  such  a  result." 

All  had  lost  comrades,  many  were  to  return  to  desolate  and  broken 
homes.  Amidst  all  the  grandeur  of  victory  there  was  profound  sorrow. 
Among  the  thousands  of  passing  veterans,  there  were  many  who  looked 
for  their  former  Commander-in-Chief,  but  their  "Father  Abraham"  had 
answered  to  his  last  bugle  call  and  with  more  than  300,000  comrades 
had  been  mustered  out. 




AND     TO  o        ON  E« 


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